Exploring Place and Identity Through Soundscape Mapping
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With the age of globalisation and information, interactions between people, places and cultures have significantly intensified, generating new forms of sense experiences and complicating our bodily encounters and identities. Within sensory research, sound in particular has gained popularity due to R. Murray Schafer’s influential work on soundscapes in the 1970s which is exhibited in his seminal book The Tuning of the World. Despite this, the focus on sound that forms the basis of this research arises from the overall negligence of sound within academic geographical work (Ingold, 2007; Pocock, 1993; Samuels, Meintjes, Ochoa, & Porcello, 2010; Smith, 1994). In fact, there is a persistence of the visual in geographical studies as a means of acquiring truth; whilst it involves readily accessible data open to analysis, it is also a highly problematic ontological and epistemological approach. As such, this work seeks to embrace the call for research that appreciates the significance of sound in relation to place and identity by producing an account which focuses on the aural experience that explores the identities that characterise a place, and its analysis through geospatial visual methods. The scientific and innovative value of this research lies in consolidating methodologies that are not very commonly employed within the academic sphere, challenging the privilege currently given to sight as a means of understanding the world around us, and building on the existing discourse on identity using a geospatial visual analysis approach. The results of the data collected produced insight into sense of place in relation to soundscape that was organised into three main themes: contrasts, temporality and individuality. First, within the theme of contrasts, there is a perceived contrast in wealth within the town of Colwyn Bay. Second, there is a contrast in Colwyn Bay between the perceived social activity and the actual breadth of organised events that occur. Finally, participants reported a contrast between the man-made and natural environments that co-exist in Colwyn Bay. These can all be observed on the maps produced in this study. Second, within the theme of temporality, participants reported that the way in which they relate to Colwyn Bay is not constant at any moment, but follows particular rhythms. In addition, it is through this process of accumulation of experiences through time that one is able to distinguish what belongs and what does not belong to a particular place. In other words, what matches their existing conceptualisation of sense of place, and what contradicts it. This is more difficult to visualise and requires further data collection. Finally, within the theme of individuality, it can be observed that each person’s sense of place is heavily based on individual assessments and emotional attachments to aspects in their surroundings, specifically, the soundscape. Second, the individual experiences that participants live and have lived are what guide their individual development of sense of place. This shows that sense of place is not a scientific process by which places are defined by their objectively unique characteristics; rather, it is the meaning that is attributed to encounters with sounds that matter. These can mostly be observed through the participatory maps.